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Why do dogs wag their tails?

Updated on October 15, 2008

Dogs are social animals and they use their tails to communicate. The tail is connected to the spine and serves the animal in many ways. Tail wagging is mostly associated with dogs as although many other animals have tails only dogs commonly wag their tails. Tail wagging is often related to the lively attitude of the dog. Tail wagging however connotes a variety of emotions. The reason for this action may not be very clear but observant dog owners can identify the situation and the emotion the dog is trying to impart through tail wagging.

Primitive dogs that have existed in packs communicate with each other through growling, barking and of course through tail wagging. The following are the different ways dogs wag their tails and their meaning:

Dogs wagging their tails

I’m happy to see you

Dogs wag their tails whenever they see the master or the members of the family. Dogs that are left at home for the better part of the day would meet the human family with exuberant tail wagging that would seem to say "I miss you and I'm glad you're home". In this case the tail is loosely held high and wagged enthusiastically.

Beware, I bite!

This is what the dog wants to say if the tail is held high and only the tip is wagging. The dog may be growling and the ears are erect. When the dog bares its teeth, it is time to run as the dog is definitely aggressive. A wagging tail is not a definite sign that the dog is friendly. Many people are bitten by the dog as they misinterpret the wagging tail.

I’m scared…

Dogs show their submission to bigger and dominant dogs by wagging a tail that is held low and between the hind legs. The tail is also wagged slowly and stiffly.

Hey, I’m the leader of the pack

The leader of the pack has a different way of wagging its tail. The dominant dog would have an erect stance, the tail is carried in a high position and wagging motion is fast and wide.

The tail wagging function

Tail wagging is similar to the human's handshake, polite greetings and smiles of recognition. People nod and smile with one another. These are social signals, very similar to the way dogs wag their tails whenever they see humans, other dogs and even other animals. A dog wagging its tail to a colorful butterfly is one for the camera.

It pays to understand the meaning of tail wagging as it conveys the emotional state of the dog as well as his intentions. Pet owners would always want to give the best for the pet. This communication device of the dog makes understanding the pet easy.

Dog yawning and wagging its tail

dog waggings its tail

wagging its tail while sleeping


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      do dogs know wen they wag their tales

      is a subconices thing?

    • theherbivorehippi profile image


      9 years ago from Holly, MI

      As I'm reading this lens I'm watching my two dogs laying on my bed watching Marley & Me, both wagging their tails! So cute! Great lens!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Yes but why do dogs wag their ears?

    • profile image

      Samantha Jo 

      9 years ago

      Nice! I never really thought about this. I've noticed the different wags of my dog but never thought about the message they were sending with it. Great hub! =]

    • Eternal Evolution profile image

      Eternal Evolution 

      9 years ago from kentucky

      Mu Pit Bull Bowser must be pretty happy then cause he's almost always wagging his tail in the happy way lol I never really though about the difference in tail wagging until i read you hub, and now thinking back i can see different times with different wagging. I also have a Boxer named Joda, she has a docked tail so she's a bit harder to read, i have noticed when she's happy and greats me her nub moves so fast that her hole butt wiggle.

    • moonlake profile image


      10 years ago from America

      We have a Springer that never stops wagging his little tail. You would think he would lose weight from all that movement.

      Enjoyed your hub.


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